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LAREDO MORNING TIMES: Roads and Highway Improvements Set

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Laredo, January 21, 2016 | comments

Roads and highway improvements set

Kendra Ablaza 

Parts of Mines Road, Texas State Highway Loop 20, U.S. Route 83, Interstate highways 35 and 59 in Laredo and Webb County will soon be getting improvements worth nearly $100 million in federal funds.

The funding will be provided by a recently-passed transportation bill called Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Bill Shuster announced Wednesday during a news conference at the World Trade Bridge.

According to the congressman’s office, 38 projects scheduled throughout the county have letting dates planned throughout 2016-17.

Cuellar, D-Laredo, said Shuster made the highway bill possible when he began his stint as chairman of the U.S. House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee because he made the committee have a more bipartisan focus on transportation issues.

“That got the work done over here,” Cuellar said.

Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, Penn., said the local transportation projects receiving funding are not just important for growing the economies of Laredo and Webb County, but also the nation’s economy.

“If you travel around the country, there are ports like Laredo … major hubs of commerce flowing back and forth,” the congressman said.

“We’ve got to make sure that dollars are invested in those corridors.”

President Barack Obama signed the FAST Act into law on Dec. 4, 2015.  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s website calls the act “a down-payment for building a 21st century transportation system,” increasing funding by 11 percent over five years.

The law also makes changes and reforms to many federal transportation programs, streamlining the approval processes for new projects, providing new safety tools and establishing new programs to advance critical freight projects.

Shuster said that in about the next 20 years or so, freight coming into this country will double and we have to prepare for that growth today.

“Freight moving in this country is critical for the health of the economy of this nation,” Shuster said.

“You can’t make snap decisions like that. It takes time.”

The new highway bill also designates the stretch of Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Laredo as part of the national Primary Freight Network.

This new designation makes that stretch of road eligible for additional federal highway funding.

The highway bill also helps Webb County by allowing Border States to set aside funding for border transportation infrastructure projects.

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